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Comprehensive Plan Update Schedule — briefing; Willamette River Goal 15 Inventories — briefing
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Everything he needs to build his custom bike frames is close to his shop in the Ranchers and Gardeners Building.
Attracted to the district because of its central location and access to everything he requires for his business, Oscar Camarena moved his metal fabrication business from Yakima, Wash., to the Central Eastside last year. Now on the first floor of the Gardeners and Ranchers Building at SE 3rd and Madison, Oscar creates bike jigs for frame builders and bicycle product developers around the world. He also builds custom bike frames under the name Simple Bicycles for the high-end cycling market.
He can often be found hanging out with his fellow tenant craftsmen and women, sharing industry knowledge and acting as the de facto “mayor” of this unique community of metal-smiths, designers, bike builders and other entrepreneurs. On Fridays they have their own happy hour in the building.
A self-described “foodie,” Oscar likes the Central Eastside location because of its proximity to lots of restaurants as well as all of his suppliers, distributors, services and other frame builders. He can push a shopping cart loaded with jigs to the powder coater, ride his bike to Winks for small parts and tools or drive his truck to pick up larger supplies in Northwest Portland, all within a 20-minute radius.
Oscar says there’s nowhere else in the city that he would rather do business.
It’s easy to look at the Central Eastside and see a collection of individual, albeit diverse, businesses. However, a closer look at these seemingly independent enterprises reveals that most have a symbiotic relationship with other businesses in the area — from the same sector as well as from other sectors — that provide essential goods and services.
Together they form a loose economic ecosystem. Each supports the other in multiple ways, and the removal of one key business, let alone a whole sector, can have a ripple effect that begins to undermine the health and potential survival of many other businesses.
Oscar Camarena of Simple Bicycles provides an example of this kind of industrial “ecosystem.”
This is the ninth installment of a blog series aimed at exploring the past, present, and future of the Central Eastside. To learn more about the industrial businesses of the Central Eastside and the planning efforts for the district, read the Central Eastside Reader and visit the SE Quadrant Plan calendar to learn about future events.
Short-term rental regulations still being debated; public hearing to be continued
On June 4, City Council chambers were packed with people hoping to testify on the Planning and Sustainability Commission’s (PSC) recommendation for the Regulatory Improvement Code Amendment Package 6, or RICAP 6 for short.
After short presentations by staff and PSC Commissioner Katherine Schultz on the code amendments, Mayor Hales opened the hearing to the 78 people who had signed up to testify on the new short-term rental regulations. Much of the initial testimony came from current short-term rental operators for Airbnb and other vacation rental sites. But many people, including neighborhood activists, did not have time to speak. So commissioners voted to extend the hearing for the short-term rental proposal to July 2.
Questions arose about full-house vacation rentals, short-term rentals within apartments and condos, and the effect of short-term rentals on affordable housing. After three hours of testimony, Council decided that additional discussion and a follow-up hearing would be needed on the short-term rental amendments and agreed to the following:
The evolution of an industrial building
In 1922 the Italian Gardeners and Ranchers Association constructed the Italian Gardeners and Ranchers Association Market Building on Martin Luther King Blvd next to the Hawthorne Bridge viaduct.
Now known as the Gardeners and Ranchers Building, the three-story building provided farmers and peddlers with a central location to sell and distribute produce. The association and building were also instrumental in establishing the Central Eastside as a center for produce distribution and industry, and Gardeners and Ranchers served as a gathering place and ad hoc community center for newly arriving immigrants.
This building that once contained a produce market, dairy product section, a specialty Italian import grocer, a pool hall, meeting rooms, and later a clothing manufacturing facility, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. Although it is no longer used for wholesale or produce distribution, its current tenants provide an example of how new industrial uses are populating the Central Eastside.
Today the Gardeners and Ranchers Building is home to more than 23 businesses that use every portion of the building, from the basement to the top floor.
Currently, the basement houses tenants like Ruckus Composites, which began repairing carbon fiber bike frames in a windowless 200 sq ft work space in 2008. Needing a place to paint their frames, they reached out to a cabinetmaker on the second floor, who made his paint booth available as needed. A few years in, the folks at Ruckus discovered they were not the only bike manufacturers in the building. They bumped into Oscar Camarena of Simple Bicycles, who shares his small work space loaded with metal fabrication tools with an architect/designer who makes specialty metal furnishings.
Next to Simple Bicycles is Plywerk, a small but growing company that does photo mounting and art panels in addition to constructing bamboo panels on site. Started in the basement of its founder, the company now occupies several hundred square feet of the Gardeners and Ranchers Building, where staff manufacture the frames as well as mount and ship the finished products to customers near and far.
The second (and top) floor of the building — an area likely used as the original meeting rooms and pool hall of the Italian Gardeners and Ranchers Association — now contains space used by Nike SB (skate boarding), Clogmaster (custom shoes), Virtual Native (web design), Plus QA (desktop and mobile applications) and Streetcar Press (publishing), among others.
The Gardeners and Ranchers Building presents an interesting case study of how older industrial buildings in the district can be reused by a mix of businesses, across different sectors. It also demonstrates how different businesses in the district form interdependent and synergistic relationships that help each one prosper.
This is the eighth installment of a blog series aimed at exploring the past, present, and future of the Central Eastside. To learn more about the industrial buildings of the Central Eastside and the planning efforts for the district, read the Central Eastside Reader and visit the SE Quadrant Plan calendar to learn about future events.
Online shareholder management app developer represents a new kind of industry in the Central Eastside.
The self-proclaimed “first company to develop a web-based system for stock and shareholder management,” Transfer Online is a great example of a software company in the industrial district that manages web-based applications with a team of in-house developers.
President and CEO Lori Livingston moved the company to the Central Eastside from the Pearl District in 2010 because rents were going up on the west side, she didn’t like the tall buildings and was looking for a different environment. She prefers the raw, gritty nature of the area, the character of the buildings and the close-in location, which allows her 30 employees to take transit, walk and bike to work. While moving her business, she purchased the building on the corner of SE 7th and Salmon, where she has been hosting tenants of the Portland Development Commission’s Start-Up Challenge.
Livingston is no stranger to the urban industrial environment. She once had a business in one of New York City’s historic industrial districts, which flipped to high value condos and offices. “I saw small businesses — myself included — disappear from the city. I don’t want that to happen here.”
As a landlord, Livingston knows what tenants are looking for: bike parking, showers, retail and restaurants. And she wants to see more retail amenities closer to her business, “So you don’t have to get in a car to go out to lunch.”
This is the seventh installment of a blog series aimed at exploring the past, present, and future of the Central Eastside. To learn more about the businesses of the Central Eastside and the planning efforts for the district, read the Central Eastside Reader and visit the SE Quadrant Plan calendar to learn about future events.